One week ago, we all thrilled to the epic saga of Charles Barkley going one-on-one against the King of the Monsters, but much to my surprise, Godzilla vs. Barkley was not the only comic book appearance of the ISB's Official NBA Star.
And this time, he's the star.
Yes, it's a little thing called Sir Charles Barkley and the Referee Murders, and it may actually be the best purchase I've ever made in a lifetime of reading comics. Written by Alan Dean Foster--who ghostwrote the Star Wars novelization for George Lucas--with pencils by Joe Staton, this gem tells the story of Sir Charles hitting the streets between games to clear his name after being framed for a series of grisly murders, and if that's not worth the forty-seven cents I paid to add this thing to my collection, I don't know what is.
Essentially, what happens is this:
During an otherwise routine basketball game, Sir Charles is the subject of a ridiculous and unfair call from a referee, who is subsequently murdered shortly after the game. Somewhere around the third time in a row this happens, however, people start to get a little suspicious, especially considering that Barkley, who apparently once threw a man through a plate glass window at a bar and then said his only regret was that they weren't on a higher floor, had been making some cryptic statements about the bad call "coming back to him" to reporters. He ends up the prime suspect in the case, and while he's questioned by the police on a visit to a museum, the idea of a major sports figure committing any sort of criminal act is so ludicrous that they release him on his own recognizance.
Still, it's not very good for his image.
Barkley, as you may imagine, isn't the sort of person to take this lying down, and so he puts on a Dick Tracy-esque coat and hat given to him inexplicably on page four and decides to conduct his own investigation. Eventually, after taking some time out to rescue a girl from being beaten up by her switchblade-weilding boyfriend and explaining the folly of staying in an abusive relationship, he gets a lead when he follows a pair of shady sports fans, remaining completely inconspicuous despite being 6'5", famous, and wearing a canary yellow trenchcoat and hat.
Anyway, he manages to bust into a swanky hotel room where Pickering, the third referee in this grand drama, is quite literally enjoying an evening of cocaine and hookers with the two shady cats, who turn out of course to be Evil Drug Dealers™. See, the other two referees had come dangerously close to finding out Pickering's secret, so Eloy, the head drug dealer, murdered them to keep it all quiet.
Yes, you read that right: Drug abuse in the world of professional sports. It's almost too much to believe, but thankfully for the story's credibilty, it's just the referees, and not the players.
A brawl ensues, but after they threaten to kill Pickering, Charles Barkley has to face what may actually be the deadliest sports contest since the karate tournament on the moon:
A Free-Throw Contest. To The Death!
See, Eloy turned to a life of crime after losing his basketball scholarship because of a broken leg, and is apparently so bitter about it that he thinks holding a professional basketball player at gunpoint and forcing him to play basketball against him is going to work out in his favor. It should also be noted that cocaine is apparently a major influence on his decision-making process.
Anyway, Barkley wins and Eloy--of course--goes back on the deal, and we all learn a very important lesson:
Even when armed only with a basketball, Charles Barkley is deadlier than a normal man with a gun.
Can anyone stand against his power?
In addition to the actual story, the comic itself is packed with a bunch of bonus features, including a "Making Of" section, profiles for all the creators (Alan Dean Foster, interestingly enough, lives in a house made of bricks salvaged from a turn-of-the-century bordello), and my personal favorite: a sheet of stamps (?) made from reference photos depicting the many moods of Charles Barkley.
SHOCK AND AWE!